Today's news

February 16, 2004

University to replace Christian prayers
Edinburgh University plans to ban Christian prayers at graduation ceremonies and replace them with a period of "reflection" to avoid offending atheists and members of other faiths and to protect itself from possible legal action. The decision was taken after complaints from students and staff who felt the tradition of prayers did not reflect their diverse beliefs. A report by senior vice-principal Michael Anderson highlighted concerns that Christian prayers could lead to charges of discrimination.
( Times, Daily Telegraph )

Students seek places in Scotland to beat fees
Applications to Scottish universities from students outside Scotland have risen 15 per cent since the government outlined plans for top-up fees south of the border. More than 4,000 extra students have applied for places in October, although fees will not be introduced south of the border until 2006. English students studying in Scotland are required to pay the £3,600 in fees that they would pay at an English university, but many are choosing Scotland in the belief that it will be cheaper to study there when top-up fees are introduced.
( Daily Telegraph )

News from the AAAS meeting in Seattle

- HRT cancer fears eased for thousands: Susan Johnson, of the University of Iowa, and one of the leading researchers behind a study that raised widespread fears over the links between hormone replacement therapy and cancer, said yesterday that the benefits of HRT for women suffering severe menopausal symptoms far outweighed the risks.
( Times, Guardian, Independent )

- Titan probe may unearth oceanography secrets: Scientists have penetrated some of the mysteries of Titan, the giant moon of Saturn. Their research has unveiled a landscape of ice, rock and hydrocarbons, dotted with crater lakes full of liquid natural gas. Next January, after a seven-year flight, a space probe will parachute through the satellite's atmosphere - the most distant landing by a man-made object on a celestial body.
( Financial Times, Guardian )

- Ultrasound could kill cancer cells: Gail ter Haar of the Royal Marsden hospital reports that researchers have begun to treat cancer with invisible scalpels of ultrasound that can roast a tumour a bit at a time in a series of two second bursts - without cutting any other tissue, and often without side effects.
( Guardian )

- Calcium link to fertility: The vital ingredient in the process of triggering growth in cloned mule embryos could have been extra calcium in the surrounding fluid, said Gordon Woods of the University of Idaho.
( Guardian )

- Beware of the shower curtain: Shower curtains, indoor swimming pools and hot tubs could be home to trillions of potentially dangerous bugs according to a biologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
( Guardian )

Old Trafford or Oxford, it's always about money
Lord Rees-Mogg comments on university elitism, independence and freedom to charge what they think is desirable.

Higher education items in the weekend press

- Oxford University should be allowed to charge well-off graduates fees of more than £10,000 a year. ( Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Independent, Daily Mirror , February 14)
- Rebel Labour MPs are set to redouble their opposition to university top-up fees after claims that Oxford should charge up to £10,000 a year. ( Independent on Sunday )

- Nick Brown MP, the chief rebel on top-up fees who switched sides at the last minute is too scared of student wrath to give a speech at Durham University. ( Sunday Express )

- Norwich students' union is considering staging an 'anti-Charles Clarke' voter-registration campaign. ( Daily Telegraph , February 14)

- Gap-year students working to fund their travels are missing out on help from the taxman. ( Mail on Sunday )

- Michael Howard will give a firm pledge to scrap university tuition fees. ( Daily Mail , February 14)

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